Modesty is one of those topics that people take personally. Conversations about modesty can turn into arguments. Lines can be drawn and sides taken. In actuality, though, odds are that both sides agree on modesty for the most part and are arguing over the details. At it’s heart, modesty is not about clothes, it’s not about rules, it’s not about style. Modesty is about the heart.
Why all this talk about modesty? Why is it so important? Not only does modesty reflect well on our character and glorify our Maker, but being modest is also considerate of our fellow brothers and sisters and loving towards others. If we love our brothers and sisters, we would not want to be a source of encouragement into sin for them. We wouldn’t want to set a bad example for our sisters and be a stumbling block for our brothers, would we?
Romans 14:12-14 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
I realize that our ideas of modesty vary greatly. Some women prefer long dresses over pants because pants show the woman’s figure too clearly. Some women prefer slacks and jeans over skirts and dresses because slacks can’t blow up in a gust of wind. With such wide and opposing points of view, how do we know if we’re dressing modestly?
First, there are many obvious immodest dress choices that we know we can avoid. Most women and men would agree that:
- Modest clothing would not allow our undergarments to show even if we reach, stretch, bend, or lean. Even a glimpse of a plain bra strap is enough to send a man’s thoughts into the dangerous ground.
- Modest clothing does not show cleavage, belly buttons, or “tooshies.” Again, men’s thoughts, not where they are supposed to be.
- Modest clothing is not so tight that one cannot sit, eat or breathe and it is not see-through, mesh, or translucent. Seriously, it doesn’t take much. Ask your husband, brother or father and they’ll probably agree.
Also, modest clothing DOES:
- include all the appropriate undergarments and accessories necessary for proper coverage.
- vary from woman to woman. What is modest on you may not be modest on me and vice versa.
While this is a good starting list, this isn’t all there is to modesty, is it? Certainly a person could follow all of the above guidelines and still be characterized as immodest, don’t you think?
Modesty is dependent upon attitude.
- Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
- 1 Timothy 2:9-10 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
The above reference is referring more to the heart than it is to the clothes. Think about the desires of the heart that compel us to dress immodestly or with flashy attire or with excessive finery. The motivation behind each of these is attention-seeking. Not only does this attitude focus on oneself instead of others, but it usually draws the wrong kind of attention as well.
When we desire modesty, when we have consideration for others, we will first choose to dress modestly, and then we will next act modestly. A person with a modest and loving heart would:
- Be aware of how they sit, stand, walk, move and stretch in front of others.
- Converse modestly with men, not bringing up personal topics and refraining from the use of certain words entirely so as not to lead their thoughts elsewhere.
- Not speak or act flirtatiously with anyone other than her husband to prevent misinterpretations on anyone’s part.
Personally, I don’t think there is any such thing as “innocent flirting” or “harmless” crude jokes. With so many men struggling with the sin of inappriopriate thoughts, it feels cruel to me to bring things up for them to think about. I have friends that I joke around with, pick on, and perhaps even tease. But whereas I might joke with a good friend about them forgetting something or tease them good-naturedly for being a clutz,.. I’d never bring anything up conversationally to cause them to think about another woman’s body in an inappropriate way.
Think about God’s commandments to men:
- Matthew 5:27-29 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
- Colossians 3:1-8 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
- 1 John 2: 15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
- 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
Certainly, each of those scriptures applies to women as well. Put away the things of the world, set your hearts on things above, treat each other with respect and purity, do everything for the glory of God.
It may seem that we cannot prevent every possible scenario from ever happening, that it is impossible to dress in a way that is 100% fool-proof. Yet we CAN clothe ourselves with consideration, respect, and love. We can clothe ourselves with Christ. In this way, we can truly achieve modesty.
1 Peter 3:3-6;8-9 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.